On this day, 10 February 1927, Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississipi.
To celebrate her 90th birthday, La Scala joins companies, colleagues and fans the world over in wishing her a happy birthday, and has released some photos of the great soprano from its archive.
Price first sang at the renowned Milanese theatre on 21 May 1960 with the role that has become forever amalgamated with her name: Aida. The conductor was Antonio Tonini and Giulietta Simionato was Amneris. A year later she would sing Madama Butterfly under the baton of Gianandrea Gavazzeni.
In 1963 she was Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Hermann Scherchen conducting, and again Aida, this time with Gavazzeni. Don Giovanni saw her sharing the stage with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Mirella Freni, Rolando Panerai, Luigi Alva and Nicolai Ghiaurov. It was in this year, and again in 1964, that she sang Verdi's Requiem with Fiorenza Cossotto, Carlo Bergonzi and Ghiaurov. In 1967, for the 10th anniversary of the death of Toscanini, Luciano Pavarotti replaced Bergonzi and the legendary performance was filmed. La Scala then took it on tour to Moscow, Montreal and New York. The conductor for all these performances was Herbert von Karajan, who collaborated with Price in many historic recordings. Her last role at La Scala was Amelia in Un ballo in maschera in 1968. Once again, her tenor was Bergonzi, and Antonino Votto conducted.
Aida was the role of her operatic farewell in 1985 which took place at the Met, where she had sung in over 200 performances. She retired from the concert and recital platform in 1997. However, in 2001, at 74, she sang – magnificently and movingly – at the Carnegie Hall concert in memory of the 9/11 victims. Her long-time collaborator James Levine accompanied her on the piano.
Teatro alla Scala unites with the best wishes from the musical world for the 90th birthday of an artist who has provided a key contribution to the history of opera in the 20th century, giving landmark performances in the operas of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Strauss and Samuel Barber.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.